‘Sextortion', a cybercrime that has been determined within the West, has formally arrived in India. The Cyber police in Mumbai have received a minimum of 5 complaints over the last 2 months where citizens, after visiting pornographic websites, found themselves being extorted with records of their online activities as leverage.
Cyber police officers said that sextortion is done using various methods. One modus operandi consists of chatting with an unsuspecting victim posing as a girl and getting them to send compromising pictures of themselves, which are then used for blackmail. Another involves putting links on pornographic websites which, if clicked on, record the victim's activities. A particularly serious form of sextortion additionally includes extorting sexual favors from the victim rather than cash, officers said.
According to Mumbai Cyber police officers, 2 ladies and 3 men have approached them over the last two months with similar complaints. “The victims, in their complaints, have stated that they visited certain pornographic websites, when that they received emails inside on a daily basis or 2. The emails had their full names and all the logs of the content that they'd watched, together with a message demanding money in the form of bitcoins. The emails went on to say that all the victim's social media account details had been obtained, and that the entire record of their pornographic activities would be exposed on all these platforms,” a Cyber Crime officer said.
The officer added that in all the five cases, the victims sought the police's help to trace the perpetrators and make the extortion stop. However, all of them declined when asked to file an official complaint, fearing that they would be disgraced once their experiences became part of public record.
“Although only 5 individuals have approached us, we have a tendency to suspect there are a lot of such victims in Mumbai and alternative cities. One of them even tried sending money via bitcoin, however, couldn't do so. It is possible that those who are well versed in the bitcoin system have already paid the extortionists. The problem is once someone bows down to such elements, the demands only keep increasing,” another officer said.
The Cyber police are still investigating how the perpetrators managed to record the activities of their victims and suspect that they may have installed backdoor programmes on the websites for this purpose. In the absence of official complaints, the scope of the investigation gets limited, officers said.